Four Malaysian sailors were released on Wednesday after more than a month of captivity by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), said the victims – Wong Teck Chii, Johnny Lau Jung Hien, Wong Teck Kang and Wong Hung Sing – were released around 12:30 a.m.
He said the four were brought by their captors to the shoreline of Barangay Lagasan Higat in Parang, Sulu, and immediately boarded a speedboat en route to Sandakan, Sabah.
“Information received from ground units disclosed that the freed victims arrived in Sandakan at about 6:00 a.m. today,” said Tan in a text message to reporters.
However, the Wesmincom spokesman, could not confirm if ransom was paid for the release of the kidnap victims.
“We have yet to confirm whether ransom money was paid in exchange for the safe release of the victims,” said Tan.
Earlier reports said the bandit group was demanding PM18 million (approximately P200 million) in exchange for the freedom of the four foreigners.
A military official, on the other hand, said a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) helped facilitate the release of the four Malaysians.
“They were freed by their abductors and were allegedly fetched by former MNLF member Hadji Mandi Sangkula,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.
The victims were aboard the tugboat Massive 6 when they were abducted by the ASG reportedly led by sub-leader Madjan Sahidjuan alias Apuh Mike, off the high seas of Sempornah, Sabah, on April 1.
They were later brought to Sulu where earlier reports said the kidnappers haggled for ransom for their release.
(ELENA L. ABEN)